Located just north of Raleigh in Wake Forest, the family-friendly resort-style community at Hasentree offers its members the use of a fitness centre, three pools, six tennis courts and a golf course designed by Tom Fazio.
Opened for play in 2007, Hasentree was the architect’s 17th design project in his home state of North Carolina and the only one in Wake County. At the end of 2019, Clubcorp announced the acquisition of seven golf clubs in residential communities owned by Toll Golf, one of which was Hasentree.
The course extends to 7,074 yards and plays to a par of 71, with a total of 88 strategically-placed flash-faced bunkers positioned around the layout. Holes have been arranged as two distinct returning nines routed around a substantial residential development, with the back nine measuring 400 yards shorter than the front nine, thanks mainly to having three par threes configured on that loop.
Highlight holes include the slightly downhill par four 2nd. “The perfect drive is down the right side past the fairway bunker on the right,” according to head professional Philip Leddy. “This leaves a 130-135 yard shot to a green where you must stay right due to a false front running down the left side of the green.”
On the back nine, Philip identifies the par five 16th for comment: “You must hit your drive between flanking fairway bunkers to have an opportunity of reaching this green in two. The putting surface is very deep and rises to a back shelf. If you avoid the bunkers then you’ll have a good chance of birdie.”
“Hasentree is an OK course, but there is no water.”
Year ago, that was the description of Hasentree a friend provided after their round. It was such an odd response for any number of reasons. Of course, in my head, I wondered, “when did a golf course need manmade ponds to be considered great?” I do not believe such features were an essential element of the game’s roots.
After finally experiencing it myself, I can firmly say that Hasentree is a standout Fazio design which comfortably joins 4-5 other contenders for top course in the Triangle region of North Carolina. What this property lacks in water hazards (if that matters to you…), it makes up for with incredible character, rolling over its natural topography rather than around compelling components of the terrain. Fazio masterfully deceives the player throughout the thought-provoking routing.
Although situated in a housing community, Hasentree’s positively sylvan setting is absolutely charming. Driving to the course out on Rt. 98 feels like a trek to the countryside. The clubhouse is magnificent and adds to the forested feel of the property. The practice range and chipping greens are the perfect places to get loose before the round, and the rumpled putting green is a great addition to test just about any break you may encounter. Members are lucky to have such fantastic facilities to hone in their games.
Every hole at Hasentree presents new strategy, as well as a mix of corridors, flora styling, and other testing elements. This variety is compelling. Some of the standout holes include:
• #1: The first at Hasentree is no gentle handshake. The ideal angle to this green is from the right side of the fairway which is halted by a large bunker. The putting surface is bisected by a ridge and landing on the proper tier is a necessity to two putt.
• #2: This shortish par four is sneakily among the most challenging, and architecturally unique on the course. The tee shot plays downhill and is fairly inviting. However, the putting surface is perched on a massive volcano. Miss short, and find yourself in a treacherous bunker; miss anywhere else, and be prepared to have your creativity as a chipper tested. Being thoughtful with your tee shot and playing to a very comfortable wedge yardage is critical. Fazio’s ability to make such a difficult hole look so straightforward demonstrates great skill.
• #3: The moderate length par three third is also tricky. From the tee, it appears the safe miss is right of the green towards a handsome collection area, as a dense forest and bunkers await balls left. However, as the green is sloped slightly from right-to-left, any shot in that seemingly benign chipping area may actually be impossible to stop. This excellent hole calls for a very controlled left-to-right shot which is not overcooked.
• #4: The canted fairway from right-to-left at the fourth creates interest, as the best angle is often from the right side. I commend Fazio for incorporating the topography, rather than flattening such a great feature.
• #6: Though the sixth is a very lengthy par “3.5” hole for the average player, the green welcomes run-up shots, and lay-ups to the wide portion of fairway left also provide a solid opportunity for an up-and-down.
• #7-#8: It was refreshing to see these two holes running parallel with long rough between, breaking the course’s ecological styling and welcoming major gusts of wind. This shift in design is refreshing and hints that housing did not dictate the routing.
• #9: Knowing the pin location may drastically change strategy at the ninth. Playing straight downhill to a two pronged fairway, players might find the left or right portion more advantageous round to round. The left is guarded by a massive bunker while the right is more open, though the right leaves a shaper downhill lie to this very shallow putting surface.
• #10: Holes like the tenth at Hasentree strongly support the argument that width creates captivating strategy. The fairway is massively broad and canted from left-to-right. There are two potential greens that can be used. During my round, the green on the right was in play. From the right set of tees, players must consider how much to bite off from the tee. The longer the club, the bigger chance of hitting two very difficult midline bunkers, or potentially rolling one all the way to the green complex. An astounding use of the land, and once again a fascinating break in forested-style with the hole running in parallel to the finisher.
• #16: The curling par five sixteenth is a shot shapers dream. Drives must be accurate to fit through a chute of bunkers off the tee. Any righty with a major hook (or lefty with a slice) might have a go at this narrow, but exceptionally deep putting surface. Beware, though, to avoid six bunkers which may greet even a mishit that lands anywhere 50 yards short of the green and in! The curling fairway beyond these traps provides a hidden, yet ideal layup area.
Consider golf holes along two axes: how hard it appears, and how difficult it actually plays. Architecturally speaking, it is pretty straightforward to design an easy hole which looks easy, and a difficult hole which is actually quite difficult. The artistry and talent of the architect shines through in the other quadrants. At Hasentree, Fazio managed to create some very difficult holes that appear straightforward, all while highlighting the natural terrain. Among those Fazio courses I have personally experienced, his work at Hasentree stands out for the great diversity in corridors, natural settings, and strategic options. It is truly a marvelous golf experience.
Additionally, if you ever make it out, be sure to enjoy the local flair of downtown Wake Forest. This small town is full of character. Some suggestions:
• Poke around the beautiful Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary which sits on the site of the original Wake Forest University campus (where Arnold Palmer physically attended)
• Grab lunch and some delectable pastries at the Main Street Grill (1318 S Main St.)
• The honey ice cream at Lumpy’s (306 Wait Ave.) is the perfect post-round sweet treat
• And, wash it all down with a pint at the regionally famous White Street Brewing Company (218 S White St.)